Rotary Club of Madras Elite has only transmen/transwomen members, becoming the first Rotary club in India to do so!
“It is our parent club that took the initiative to make this happen and we thank them for it,” says Arun Karthick, charter president
Rotary International has long been a great ally of the transgender community, offering many a service from educational aid to monetary assistance for self-help projects. But very few of its clubs include among them members who are transmen or transwomen. Breaking away from this path is the Rotary Club of Madras Coromandel with its new charter — Rotary Club of Madras Elite with its all transmen/transwomen members.
This is a first in the country, notes Arun Karthick, charter president. “It is our parent club that took the initiative to make this happen and we thank them for it. There’s also Raviraman sir, chairman of RR Groups, who facilitated this. To become members of Rotary, we need to pay `18,000 a year. It was Raviraman sir who paid the subscription for 20 of us for two years, knowing that we’d struggle to get on our feet in the early period,” shares Arun.
This charter is one of the few organisations that is trying to promote awareness about transmen in a society that is just about coming to terms with transwomen. “There is a lot of awareness about transwomen now. But, transmen happen to be even more discriminate among the discriminated. That is one main reason my mentor — Nila, head of Pharm Foundation — wanted me to take the responsibility for this charter,” says Arun. It was Nila who worked alongside the parent Rotary Club and helped identify the transmen and transwomen who now make up the charter.
Arun had already been doing his part for the welfare of transmen, having suffered through much himself. “I’ve been running a voluntary programme for transmen, helping them get the transgender card, get their name changed, find jobs and more,” he shares. He is also volunteering with the Transgender Welfare Association of the government, acting as a liaison between the Social Welfare Department and the transmen community. This was the first time transmen made it to that volunteer team, he points out.
Like Arun and Nila, many transmen and transwomen who had been working for the betterment of their community individually got a chance to come together for a cause through the Rotary charter. One of their main missions is to educate transmen and transwomen who dropped out of school or college. “Many face abuse for their gender identity and gender expression. Others find it weird, a reason to mock and tease them. These things start small and escalate even to the point of physical abuse or rape. Many transwomen and transmen drop out because of it. It is also a time when ‘family torture’ is also increasing and they decide to leave the house. What we want to do is identify these people, find out what they want to pursue and offer them a means to do it. It is in this manner that we got a transman into Loyola College recently, for the VisComm course,” he explains.
The charter will be involved in a lot of other work too. Recently, they conducted a polio camp in Villvakkam to great results. There are many other events lined up for the future too. All in good time.